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Review of new French show 'A Very Secret Service'

‘It’s Clever, it’s stylish and it’s wildly entertaining, what more could you ask for?’

‘A Very Secret Service’, also known by its original French title ‘Au service de la France’, is a French spy comedy-drama created by Jean-François Halin, who also wrote the show along with Claire Lemaréchal and Jean-André Yerlès. The theme music, which beautifully sets the tone of the show, is composed by Nicolas Godin, who is one half of the French music duo ‘Air’.

The year is 1960, the location Paris, a young man named André Merlaux, played by French actor Hugo Becker, (‘Gossip Girl’) has accepted an ambiguous message from the French Secret Service offering him the chance to become a Secret Service Agent, which he eagerly accepts. The show follows Merlaux as he becomes accustomed with international espionage. Becker gives a fantastic and believable performance as the naïve and innocent young Merlaux.

Reluctantly mentoring Merlaux are three more seasoned agents: Jacquard, (Karim Barras) head of affairs in Algiers, Moulinier, (Bruno Paviot) in charge of African Affairs and Calot, (Jean-Édouard Bodziak). They are joined by a number of other colourful characters.

Set in an era of political, cultural and social change, France was at the forefront of a political conflict and experiencing rapid decolonisation. The first wave of feminism was hitting its peak, cinema was becoming risky and experimental and, as a result, there was a rise in free sexual expression. ‘A Very Secret Service’ brilliantly captures the instability of France in the 1960s. It exposes the misogynist attitudes towards women in the work force, social prejudices, and the inefficient and outdated methods of the French government at the time, all through smart and heavy satire.

The French miniseries picked up by Netflix consist of twelve twenty minute episodes and is one of the most cleverly entertaining shows I have seen this year, and I am eagerly awaiting a second season. So if you are looking for a new show to watch at the end of a long day with a glass of wine then I recommend Halin’s ‘A Very Secret Service’.

Written by Sophie Watts

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